When you look at the fight against abortion and homosexual marriage American Christendom has been not been very influential. There have been nearly 50 million pre-born babies killed since 1973 and the pro-life movement for the most part has been very ineffective. I know that many other babies have been saved, but that was not organizational influence; it was the hard work of individuals. When you look at sodomy marriage you will see that only 1% claim to desire this and yet 80% of Americans claim to be Christian and still we lose battles in the courts giving up right ground every day. How is that?
It is because most pro-life/family organizational leaders seek access over influence; they desire a seat at the king’s table instead of having the king’s ear. Not so with Nehemiah:
“And it came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, that I took the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had never been sad in his presence before. Therefore the king said to me, ‘Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This is nothing but sorrow of heart.’ So I became dreadfully afraid, and said to the king, ‘May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire?’ Then the king said to me, ‘What do you request?’ So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.’” (Nehemiah 2:1-5)
How is that the king’s servant has more influence then the king’s friends? It is because Nehemiah did his duty and trusted God with the results, to paraphrase John Adams. Nehemiah was the king’s wine taster; although it was a trusted position it was not one highly sought after. If the king’s enemies wanted to poison him it was Nehemiah’s job to take in that poison for the king. Sort of like a present day Secret Service officer taking a bullet for the president. But obviously Nehemiah had developed a relationship with the king to where the monarch was able to recognize Nehemiah’s despondent face.
The time between Nehemiah chapters 1 and 2 is some four months; that means Nehemiah patiently waited for God to move after his first cry to the Lord. Nehemiah also did not tell God how to move; he only cried out to God to move. I too often send memos to God awaiting His holy stamp of approval on plans that I have already put into motion. If I desire to be like Nehemiah I must learn to patiently wait on the Lord. That is so hard to do but that comes from a lifestyle of faith wrought through trusting God in and for all things.
What if the President of the United States asked you, “What do you request?” Would you get all puffed up believing that you have arrived? Here I am in the presence of the most powerful man in the world and he wants to know my request! Not Nehemiah, he “prayed to the God of heaven.” He humbled himself before the king and prefacing his request with humility, he then boldly presented what God had no doubt put on Nehemiah’s heart. What a magnificent man!
And knowing that God was moving in Nehemiah’s life giving him favor with the king, Nehemiah went even further and asked the king to provide all that Nehemiah would need to be successful:
“Furthermore I said to the king, ‘If it pleases the king, let letters be given to me for the governors of the region beyond the River, that they must permit me to pass through till I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he must give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel which pertains to the temple, for the city wall, and for the house that I will occupy.’ And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me.” (Nehemiah 2:7-9)
I get so many puffed up letters from different Christian organizations saying “we” accomplished this and “our and your efforts” brought this victory and rarely do I see God getting the glory. And for good reason; He is not at work there. For the most part those are Christian organizations being run by Christian men and women supported by Christians and wielding very little if any Christian influence because they are devoid of Christ. They do not have “the good hand of my God upon” them. How else do we explain their ineffectiveness?
But it is too easy to blame organizations when the blame belongs in the pulpits across America and among the flock. These organizations only exist because churches, pastoral staff and members, have given up right ground. Charles Finney warned us:
“The church must take right ground in regard to politics . . . The time has come for Christians to vote for honest men and take consistent ground in politics, or the Lord will curse them . . . God cannot sustain this free and blessed country that we love and pray for, unless the Church will take right ground. Politics are part of religion in such a country as this, and Christians must do their duty to God . . . God will bless or curse this nation according to the course Christians take in politics”
That was written in the 19th Century! Imagine our pulpits preaching that today? Most American preachers would hide under their desks before they would utter those words, not only in the pulpit but in public. If that is your pastor won’t you go to him and encourage him? Will you not cry out to the Lord to bring courage, conviction, and commitment to His servant? Our pastors need our prayers because once they begin to preach this way you can be sure persecution will come.
Nehemiah was an influential man because he prayed to God always. When was the last time you quickly prayed before answering? Prayer is the key God’s kingdom coming to earth as it is in heaven. Is that not how Jesus taught us how to pray? One of my favorite authors on prayer is E.M. Bounds and he said this about prayer in the world:
“God shapes the world by prayer. The more prayer there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces of against evil …”
It seems so simple an answer and yet it is not that easy.
We allow so many things of this world to distract us that it keeps us for praying for it.
What an irony!
What a tragedy!
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